Can’t the nice man just have some happy-go-lucky, completely unrelated to torture news? Last night Jon Stewart was feeling so depressed by the CIA torture report that he was willing to do whatever it took to avoid it, even if it meant a jar of jellybeans. At the start of the show, he had to choose between the soft news of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s visit to New York or the CIA torture report. He flipped a coin it said, “Torture report.” He picked a card and the card said, “Torture report.” He brought out a giant jar of jellybeans and tried to guess how many were in the jar. He said five and the carney-clad Jordan Klepper said, “Do the torture report!” So Stewart did the torture report.
It is no wonder that Stewart is so depressed by this bit of news. Torture of human beings should be a horrible thing and no one should condone it. In fact, as he pointed out later in the show, America’s name was signed to a United Nations declaration banning torture back in the 1980s by none other than conservative messiah Ronald Reagan. If the ultimate conservative hero thought that torture should be banned under any and all circumstances, without exception, surely today’s conservatives must feel the same way?
Nope. In fact, high profile Republicans from the Bush administration, including the ghost of Dick Cheney, have come out and slammed the report as nothing more than a pack of lies. In their opinion, torture worked, it was justified and they are offended that this is even happening. They see nothing wrong with what they did way back in the distant past of the early 2000s.. Stewart pointed out that they are willing to say anything to make this story go away, probably because the list of things that happened under their watch sounds a lot like the charges from the Nuremberg trials for which many people were prosecuted as war criminals. Nobody wants to be a war criminal, particularly people who look like war criminals.
Jon Stewart, consummate professional that he is, tried oh so hard to get away from the depressing CIA torture report, but the report kept reeling him back in, a lot like the doctors who resuscitated detainees when they flatlined from the torture. Instead of British royalty, he went to the royally ridiculous coverage from FOX News, in particular the circular reasoning of former Bush administration employee Nicole Wallace. In the same show, she argued that no matter what America does, people will want to attack it. Then she argued that the report should not be released because it will make people want to attack America. As Stewart pointed out, it is patently absurd to think people can have it both ways and is just another instance of radical conservatives who will say anything to make this story go away.
This situation makes America look bad, but above all it is making conservatives look bad because they were the ones who created this situation in the first place. But just when it looked like there was no hope for anyone, help came from the most unlikely person: John McCain. The straight talk express stood up in the Senate and told America exactly what it needed to hear and Stewart was elated. Overlaid with clips of applause from famous movies, McCain gave a speech that was perfect for the time, a reminder that America has a duty to act according to a right conscience and that while doing the right thing is never easy, it is always necessary.
As a now less depressed Jon Stewart noted last night, the fact that this needed to be said at all is a depressing fact, but he was still glad that someone said it. John McCain is already a national hero, but he is the man of principle that the country still needs. And like the Daily Show host, the audience needed it, too. While many of the laughs that Jon Stewart got last night were almost groans and gasps of disbelief, he managed to lift some of the depression about the horror of the CIA torture report by giving America exactly what it needed: the truth.
Review By Lydia Bradbury